Note: During the playoffs, Monday Morning Manager will be answering Burning Questions. The morning after every Tigers playoff game, come back here for MMM’s answers to the questions that many of you have about the previous night’s game. Today’s BQ addresses Game 3 of the ALCS.
Let’s start with what happened before the game—namely, the Yankees lineup. No A-Rod, no Nick Swisher. Surprised?
Not really. If there’s anything that MMM likes about Joe Girardi (and there are several things, actually), it’s the manager’s backbone. He doesn’t bow to resumes and Hall of Fame credentials. He puts the guys in there who he feels gives his team the best chance of winning. MMM likes that. Now, the whole team is struggling, so you might wonder why Rodriguez and Swisher were singled out. Clearly, with A-Rod it’s a matter of his 0-for-18 vs. right-handers in the postseason. With Swisher it was a chance to get Brett Gardner in the game, batting leadoff to replace the injured Derek Jeter.
For all the talk of the Yankees bats going silent, the Tigers aren’t exactly hitting the cover off the ball, either. Concerned?
With a 3-0 series lead and Tigers starters putting zeroes up on the scoreboard like the 1966 Baltimore Orioles, World Series version, MMM isn’t concerned so much as anxious. As long as you’re winning, all is good. But it would have been nice for the Tigers to blow the game open in the sixth inning, when they had the bases loaded, one out, and Miguel Cabrera at the plate with a 2-0 lead. Even a sacrifice fly would have been nice. But the Triple Crown winner swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play.
The good news is that the Yankees don’t appear to be a team about to bust loose, so maybe you don’t need a lot of runs to beat them.
Justin Verlander went 8.1 innings and threw a season-high 132 pitches, yet only struck out three hitters. Two-part question: was it right to pull him when Jim Leyland did; and what did you think of his outing?
First part first: yes, it was the right move. The Yankees had a flurry of lefty hitters coming up, plus switch-hitting Mark Teixeira. Leyland had southpaw Phil Coke, who is picking the right time to pitch the best he has all year, ready to go. No reason to leave JV in at that point. MMM didn’t like how Verlander hung that curve ball which no. 9 hitter Eduardo Nunez (who had a great eight-pitch at-bat) clubbed over the left field wall in the ninth inning, which was another red flag that JV was on borrowed time. As for Verlander’s outing, he may not have been as sharp as a tack, but he got people out, and that’s all that counts.
As in Game 2, Leyland did not have closer Jose Valverde warming up in the eighth inning. It was Joaquin Benoit and Coke instead. Before the game Leyland said he would, basically, play it by ear and use his “managerial instincts” if the Tigers had a lead going into the ninth. Is Coke the new closer? He has saved the last two games.
It’s looking like, at least for this series, that Valverde won’t close anymore. But two things: Verlander was on the mound spinning a shutout; and Leyland must have liked the Coke vs. Yankees lefties matchup. And it paid off. Coke got Ichiro Suzuki with little drama. Then Teixeira and Robby Cano had great at-bats as Coke twice was within one strike of closing them out, but only a lefty could have made that nasty slider that Coke made on lefty-swinging Raul Ibanez to end the game.
With any luck, this series only has a game or two remaining and Leyland will have some time to determine whether to re-install Valverde as his closer for the (gulp) World Series.
The eventual game-winning hit was Cabrera’s double over the head of centerfielder Curtis Granderson. Catchable?
Well, it wasn’t like Jim Northrup’s drive over Curt Flood’s head in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series in terms of drama. It also differed from Northrup’s hit in that Granderson got a bad jump, whereas Northrup’s triple wasn’t catchable, despite Flood’s stumble. So yeah, MMM would call it catchable but it was also a very difficult play. Most centerfielders will tell you that the toughest play is the line drive hit right at you, which describes Cabrera’s hit to a tee. Now, MMM isn’t saying that Austin Jackson would have caught it; the play was extremely difficult. But a guy getting a good jump and taking the proper route might have snagged the ball; it wasn’t uncatchable, as Northrup’s hit was.
Girardi brought switch-hitting Swisher to the on-deck circle to hit for Russell Martin, had Ibanez kept the ninth inning rally going. No A-Rod against the lefty Coke?
Girardi explained afterward that had he pinch-hit Rodriguez, Leyland would have countered with the righty Benoit, and the Yankees manager is probably right. MMM guesses that Rodriguez must be dead to Girardi when a right-hander is on the mound.
A 3-0 series lead with Max Scherzer, who hasn’t pitched since Game 4 of the ALDS, on the mound. Should we get out the brooms?
MMM told you to beware of the Yankees-Verlander match-up, and that proved to be false worry. Scherzer hasn’t pitched in a week, but no worries about that; Max’s arm could probably use the extra two days rest. MMM hates 3-0 series leads, as strange as that sounds. There just seems to be added pressure to get that fourth win ASAP. The ninth inning last night showed MMM that the Yankees are still twitching. Sadly, MMM thinks you’d better clear Thursday’s schedule for Game 5.
Re-read the first sentence of MMM’s last answer. *wink*
Come back here Thursday for BQ after ALCS Game 4!!